No to pledge - let's toast the Queen Vic
EVERY single day of their school lives, American children are expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.They all stand to attention, hands over their hearts, and declare in unison: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
EVERY single day of their school lives, American children are expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
They all stand to attention, hands over their hearts, and declare in unison: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
There are, I think, two ways of looking at this bizarre institutionalised behaviour.
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One is that it's a total irrelevancy, a historical remnant which nobody pays much attention to. I heard an American insist as much this week.
The other is that it's an insidious and powerful piece of brainwashing.
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There are undoubtedly elements of truth in both views.
But if you've ever seen how fanatical the Americans are about their flag - which is, after all, merely a simple design on a bit of cloth - you may realise how powerful the brainwashing is.
The bit about God may help to explain why so many Americans remain so backward on the subject of religion.
As for liberty and justice - well, let's just say the world jury's out on that.
The question in my mind is how far the Pledge of Allegiance is a cause of American nationalism and how far it's a symptom.
Either way, it would be deeply stupid for us to follow suit.
Not that, at present, there are any serious proposals for a daily British brain-wash. But you might see the thin end of a wedge in Lord Goldsmith's suggestion of a passing-out ceremony on leaving school.
He wants school-leavers to be made to swear an oath of allegiance to queen and country.
I can think of a few appropriate oaths, not all printable here.
In any case, just how seriously does the good lord expect teenagers to take this oath?
At least half the country appears to regard the royal family as a kind of national soap opera.
So - an oath of loyalty to the queen? A glass or two raised to the Queen Vic might be more fitting.
THERE'S a guy round our way who runs his car on chip-fat. Not nice, clean, golden oil from a plastic bottle, but used oil that's done its turn in a deep-fat fryer at the chip shop.
Apart from the fact that the smell of it going by makes heads turn and mouths water, his Land-Rover runs just like any other. And it didn't take any expensive conversion either.
It's a perfect example of recycling. Except that even the busiest chip shop doesn't get through enough oil to keep all its customers motoring.
The EU and the US are both committed to bio-fuel in a much bigger way.
With mineral oil supplies running low (and Russia preparing to crank up the price to the rest of us) growing plants for oil seemed an ideal solution.
The theory, some of it, is OK. In practice, it's another man-made catastrophe.
In Indonesia and Malaysia especially, huge tracts of virgin rainforest are being destroyed to make way for palm-oil plantations for bio-diesel.
Even if the plantations themselves are “sustainable”, they are no replacement for the vital carbon-absorbing properties of the felled forest. And they are no replacement for the lost wildlife habitat either.
Elsewhere, beet, maize and wheat crops are being diverted to use as bio-ethanol - which is precisely why food prices are rising rapidly around the world.
If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, then bio-fuel is what's powering us along it at breakneck speed.